Why “Exposure” is Complete Bullshit

If you work for yourself and work in a creative field (i.e. graphic design, video editing, writing, etc.), I’m sure you’ve heard something like this: “I can’t pay you. But if you work for my company, you’ll get exposure.” I’ve heard that numerous times during my freelancing career, and I almost bought into it early on.

Less than a month after I graduated from college, I began writing for a publication that didn’t pay any of its writers. I was told by my editor that it would happen eventually, though. A month after that, I was hired by another client that paid me fairly well and ended up leaving the non-paying position.

Looking back, I wish I had known better than to work for free. Now I know that I was lied to. “Exposure” is complete and utter bullshit. It truly is! No one- and I mean no one– should ever work for exposure. You should be paid for your work- not meant to slave over it without seeing one thin dime.

Whether it’s creating an article, a logo or a website, they all share similar traits. Namely, the fact that they all take a fair amount of time to complete. Some tasks take more or less times than others to complete. But that time you spent working your ass off is your work.  They say “time is money”, after all. Therefore, it’s easy to argue that the time you’ve spent working for a client is worth money. You deserve to be paid for your hard work.

For those who believe that exposure works, here’s the truth- it doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t work! It’s the same thing as working for free, even if some don’t think that way. Yet people think that being paid via exposure is as good as being paid with actual money. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating- exposure does NOT pay the bills. It doesn’t pay for your home, car, groceries, utilities…the list goes on and on. Money takes care of paying for all those things- exposure doesn’t.

Another big point is that it’s insulting to tell someone that they’re not worth paying if they work for you. That’s an insult to their talent and time that’s spent on any project. Yes, freelancers pursue passions that they love. Yes, they love what they do. But they’re also doing it as a career, so they deserve to be paid. Telling them otherwise and suggesting that they don’t deserve to be paid is rude and wrong on so many levels. It’s arguably the biggest insult to one’s career choice.

So to my fellow freelancers- do not ever, EVER bust your ass for a company that doesn’t want to pay you for your work. They don’t deserve a second of your time and effort. You’re better off working for those that will pay you. It can be hard to find clients- freelancing is tough, I know. But being paid with cash instead of exposure- and keeping your dignity and integrity intact- are more important in the end.

As for businesses and individuals who still think that they can get away with exposure as payment…exposure is bullshit and you shouldn’t be in business if you can’t or won’t pay people for their work. Okay?



P.S. If you have any stories about someone trying to pay you in exposure, please let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your experience.


Published by Elizabeth Sarah Larkin

Freelance Writer & Social Media Manager

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